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PostPosted: Sun Feb 15, '09, 5:07 am
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A bit more somber than my last love story, I hope. Happy Late Valentine's Day!

Memory of the Thorned Rose

(AW 2340, Landen Castle)

Surprising news, Mieu and Wren noticed, always had a strange effect on humans- some were able to take it in stride, while others expressed (presumably exaggerated) emotions that ran from shock to delight, to absolute horror.

The first and third, Mieu also noticed, were visibly present on the face of her companion, Prince Sean Landen, as he nearly dropped his fork to the floor of Landen Castle's dining room. "I... I'm sorry, Aunt Sari," he stammered, trying to collect himself. "What did you just say?"

Seated at the head of the table was one of the group's primary benefactors, Sari Satera- Queen of the Orakian Union of Landen and Satera ("Or just Sari, to my friends.") Rolling her eyes in mock irritation, Sari repeated the news that prompted Mieu's reflection. "I asked you if you wanted to be the king of Landen," she said. "I didn't think you'd pass out when I asked."

"I didn't pass out," Sean replied. "It's just... Grandfather told me he gave up his kingdom just to be with Grandmother. Can you really just... give it back?"

"I don't see why not- a queen can do pretty much whatever she wants!" Crossing her arms, Sari leaned back in her chair, smirking at her godson. "Too bad your other friends aren't here- I'm sure the looks on their faces would have been priceless."

"Queen Sari, while I think Princess Kara would have had a hearty laugh at Prince Sean's expense," Wren started, "Princess Laia's expression is estimated at 97.6% probability of concern."

Sari sighed, hanging her head. "I should have kicked your tin can * a long time ago, Wren," she groaned.

"A correction, Queen Sari. My metallic body is comprised of an ilimium-mahlay alloy, supported by a megatanium/alumisteel exoskeleton. Tin, symbol Sn, is merely a trace element in my wiring-"

"Wren, shut up." Despite the harshness of Sari's order, Mieu could still sense a tone of respect in her voice. "Now, then, Sean. What do you say? I know it's a bit sudden and all, but what the hell. You're a good kid, I'm sure you can make Landen prosper."

"It... it's not just that, Aunt Sari. There's also... you know."

"What else is there? You're young, yeah, but I was your age once, Sean." Sari uncrossed her arms, then leaned across the table towards the green-haired prince. "You're smart, you know how to lead, you can defend whatever you can if need be, I'm sure you have some help from your paren-" The suddenly morose expression crossing Sean's face answered Sari's question. "Oh. Oh, Jesus. Sean, I'm sorry. I didn't mean-"

"It's okay, Aunt Sari. We found my parents' murderers."

Mieu remembered the revelation- Rulakir, elder brother of Orakio, and ruler of the flying warcruiser Lashute. A puppet for a greater evil-

"You remember Me well, boy. For I am DARK FORCE, the Master of Death." One massive clawed hand, steeped in red energy, grabbed the cliffside.

"Thine Sorrow, Anger, and Pain; as well as that of your fellow humans; comprise My legion Strength." Another hand, gnarled and radiating blue energy, slammed into the clifftop, near its mate.

"Observe my Might and despair of that which lives, foolish ones!" The hands tensed, and the five men and women could see the top of an ash-gray head start to rise into sight. Sean tightened his grip upon his greatsword, scarcely noticing Kara cross her slicers; Laia nocking an arrow into her bow; Wren raising his rifle; Mieu extending her claws as she subconsciously took a tentative step closer to her charge. Each weapon glistened with faint colored light- blue, red, white, yellow, and green- the blessings of Sage Isle and a martyr long lost to history.

"Get ready, everyone," he ordered. "Something freakin' evil is coming out of that box, and I don't intend to let it get any farther than here!"

"Warriors of Destiny? Ha!" The voice boomed. "I shall savior Thine blood as you would a fine wine... I shall greatly enjoy your painful DEATHS!"

And suddenly, towering skyward, was a hideously deformed gargoylesque monstrosity, the pink clouds warping around it shrouding it from sight. Sean had ordered Laya and Wren to attack Dark Force directly, while he, Mieu, and Kara concentrated on its radiant blue hand. Once the hand had been severed from its thick wrist, the three got to work on the red hand, dodging its massive Foi blasts.

Mieu was aware that Dark Force was also manifesting Tsu, arcs of electricity surging from its eyes. Instincts kept kicking in during the battle- defend Sean, heal Sean, resuscitate Sean if need be, make sure Sean's all right. Was it because it was her duty to protect Orakio's descendants, she wondered? To protect the last of a dying legacy? Or was it-

"GRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!"

Dark Force roared in agony as Sean had leapt up, plunging his sword into its neck with an expert thrust, then ripped the blade out. The demon's head blistered, punctured and severed, leaking black ichor, twisted into pain. For a brief instant, its malevolent red eyes locked with Sean's dark blue eyes, both sending each other a hateful glare.

"I regret merely smashing Azura, boy. Never fear, as I am patient... One thousand years and one day hence, I shall return, Sean Landen. You and yours will be stone dead and dust, but I'll pay Mine good tidings upon your descendants."

"And they'll send you to whatever hellhole you spawned from. Do you hear me, Dark Force?!"

"Oh, it'll be a joyous family reunion all around, boy- I SWEAR IT!" were the demon's last words before exploding into a flare of sickly purple light. Purple ashes rained down from the corona of light, and the surreal pink clouds started vanishing from sight.

The next few minutes were a bit of a blur to Mieu- Sean's cry of "This evil city is too evil to leave standing! MEGIDO!", Lashute being torn apart within and without by the prince's anger, Grantz kicking in automatically-


"Mieu?"

Blinking, the red-haired cyborg was snapped back to reality. "Oh... err, yes, Prince Sean?" she asked.

"Are you all right? You barely even touched your dinner, Mieu."

Mieu looked down quietly at her place setting, upon which there remained a sizable amount of rice, vegetables, noodles, and freshly cubed steak; Sean and Sari's plates only bore the remains of their meals. Even Wren had finished his tankard of industrial oil and protein lubricant. Returning her gaze to her comrades, Mieu replied, "I'm fine, my Prince. I'm just... not hungry, that's all."

"A shame, too. This is one of your favorites, isn't it, Mieu?" Sari asked. "So, Sean- do we have a deal? One Kingdom of Landen for one Power Topaz- a family heirloom for a family heirloom."

"Well..." Sean hesitated. "Aunt Sari, I know I've had nothing but warm welcomes here, but-"

"No buts, young man," Sari replied, smiling. "If I go any lower, I'm gonna have to send Mieu and the Wind Up Doll over there across the castle so they can't record me begging to you."

"I'll have to get married, too, Aunt Sari..."

"Sean, will you relax? God Almighty, you're really nervous about this. Just relax, Sean. I'll teach you everything you need to know about ruling Landen, ease you into the transition- we can worry about the small stuff later, all right?" Again, Sari smiled, reaching towards Sean with her hand open. "You're in good hands. Always have been, Sean."

Sean considered this for a brief moment, then rose from his chair. Meeting Sari's gaze, he took her hand and shook it vigorously. "All right. All right, Aunt Sari. You've got a deal," he said, offering her a yellow jewel. "Here's the Power Topaz."

With a laugh, Sari embraced Sean, then told him, "And out there is Landen, Sean. We'll talk first thing in the morning, all right? It's getting quite late."

"All right. See ya in the morning, Aunt Sari. And... thanks."

The two exhanged one last embrace, then Sean left the dining room, headed towards what Sari referred to as the "special guest room" in the castle's residential wing. Wren excused himself a minute later, as he went to find an available power port to recharge himself with. This left Mieu alone with Sari in the dining room. There was an uncomfortable silence for a minute before Sari asked, "Well?"

"I'm sorry, Queen Sari?"

"You've got something on your mind- I know that look," Sari explained. "And I'm willing to wager a few Meseta that it's Sean."

Immediately, Mieu sweatdropped. "Sean? No, no, Queen Sari. I'm just... thinking about Dark Force. That's all."

"Uh-huh. Mieu, some advice, all right?" Walking around the table, Sari sat down next to Mieu, then looked her in the eyes. "Don't tell me. Tell Sean- he's a little more deserving to know how you feel about him than I do."

"It's not that, Queen Sari. Sean is... he's..."

"Going to be a little surprised you referred to him as 'Sean' and not 'My Prince' or 'Prince Sean.'" Sari smiled at Mieu, then continued, "Just tell him, all right? If he feels the same way, then what have you lost? Nothing."

"I... Queen Sari, I-" Now the redhead was very nervous. "Thanks for the advice, but... how did you know?"

"I told you, I've seen that look before, Mieu." With a sigh, Sari continued, "Twenty five years ago, Ayn and Thea kept sharing that look between each other. And I..." Another sigh. "I had that look in my eyes when I thought of Ayn."

"Really?!" Mieu exclaimed in surprise. "But... but when we first met you, you called Lord Ayn a-"

"'Son of a traitor, tainted by a race of traitors,' I know, I know."

"And Lady Thea- you said she was-"

"All right, what I said about Thea was reprehensible, yes. And I apologized to both her and Ayn later," Sari countered. "Mieu, the point is, you get attached to someone if you've been with them for a long time. I loved Ayn, Mieu. The three of us knew this, but Ayn just didn't feel the same way about me. He had respect for me as a warrior and a friend, yes, but not those feelings. I'm over it now, but back then, I was hurt."

Sari paused for a second, collecting herself mentally, then continued, "You're a good woman, Mieu, and a capable person. Now go tell Sean how you feel. Otherwise, you're never going to stop beating yourself up over it inside."

"I see..." Mieu returned the queen's smile. "Thank you, Queen Sari. Thank you so much!"

"Any time, Mieu. Just one thing in return. Call me 'Sari.' No title. Just 'Sari.'"

Mieu laughed a bit- she remembered, months ago, when she had helped evacuate Sean from Azura, he told her to call him simply by his name. She tried her best, but always gravitated back to the titles days later. "I'll try my best, Sari!" she replied.

"Mieu, another piece of advice- you can't do something halfway. You can, or you can't. There is no 'try.' That's what my mother taught me."

Nodding, Mieu rose from her chair. "It's a good thing to know. Sari, I'll go talk with Sean right away!"

"Mieu, Mieu! Hold on a minute," Sari urged, gently holding the redhead back with her hand. "Go back to your guest room, Mieu. Compose yourself first. When you're ready, go talk to Sean. All right?"

"All right."

-=-=-

Dahlia had risen above the western horizon, bathing Landen and her sister kingdom in its light. From a window in Landen Castle, Sean sighed as he watched the slow moonrise, thinking of his travels and companions. Since their fateful battle against Dark Force, Kara had departed their company and returned to Dahlia, her parting words to Sean "May your culture defy extinction, Sean." As for Laia, younger sister of the sorceress Laya, she had decided to explore the arcology that was the Alisa III, her faithful retainers from beneath Hazatak at her side. As much as he wanted to see them again, part of him knew that that was highly unlikely, at best.

Mother, Father, he thought as he looked out at Landen, bathed in moonlight. The nightmare's over. Dark Force is gone. I hope you're proud of all of us.

There was a sudden knock at his door. Stepping away from his window, Sean rolled his shoulders and said, "Come in."

The door opened quietly, revealing Mieu. She closed the door behind her, then entered the room. "Hello, Sean!" she said cheerfully, giving the prince a sweet smile.

"Oh, hey, Mieu. What's up?"

"Umm, Sean... this is a bit... I have a small problem," Mieu started, her gaze inadvertently lowering from Sean's. "Can we talk for a bit?"

"Oh, sure. Sure. Hang on a sec, Mieu." Sean pulled a chair out from under the small table provided in the room, offering it to Mieu. As she sat down, a stray beam of Dahlia's light streamed through the window, casting its serene glow on Mieu. With the moonbeam shining on the redhead, Sean noticed a few changes to the Mieu he was familiar with- the armor-inlaid vest she usually wore was gone, as were the long white gloves that concealed her claws' extension ports. The bejeweled hair ribbon he had bought for her in Mystoke still remained in hair, pinning it back into her familiar bob. He also couldn't help but notice a ruby sheen to Mieu's lips that wasn't there before, as well as the faint aroma of Lunar Dew.

Blushing slightly, Sean pulled another chair up to Mieu and asked, "All right, Mieu. What's on your mind?"

"...You know all about me, right?" she replied. "How I was born, and when I was eighteen-"

"The hovercraft accident," The green-haired prince sighed, then continued, "And how that ancient research saved you."

"Sort of. Four ribs replaced, Laconia-infused skeleton, ilimium lattices around my brain and vital organs, replacement eyes, claw attachments... Doctor Rie's microts did the trick..." Mieu sighed sadly, then added, "Can't blink, don't need to breathe, never aging. I'm five hundred fifty years old, Sean, and I did something I haven't thought about in so long."

"What's that, Mieu?"

A crystal tear trickled from the cyborg's eye, rolling gently down Mieu's cheek. She reached up to brush it away, surprising Sean with the subtle grace of her movement. Her voice stuttered slightly as she said, "I've... I've fallen in love."

"Oh? That's... that's a really good thing!" Sean replied, setting his hand on Mieu's shoulder. "With who?"

"It doesn't matter, Sean. I'm just going to stay the same, and he's just going to get older and die one day. And even then, he'd only not care if he were blind. After all-" The tears started flowing faster. "I'm just a combat cyborg, destined to slaughter and kill, just like my sister. That's all anybody ever sees me as- a freak!"

"Mieu..." His other hand closed upon Mieu's other shoulder. "Lis- Listen to me, Mieu. I never saw you as just some freak, all right? Not a freak, not a tool, not disposable. You're wonderful. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise. Mieu, please. Please, don't cry."

He started wiping away some of Mieu's tears, letting his hand linger a bit longer than he had intended on Mieu's cheek. "All right, Mieu? I hate seeing you like this."

"*sniff* I... Sean?"

"I hate seeing you sad, Mieu. I like it when you smile. Every time I see you, I always think of that ever-smiling face. That's why I healed you first during our travels- I needed you to talk to me, keep me sane. I needed you to help save the Alisa III. Mieu..."

Sean sighed deeply, then took a deep breath. "Mieu, I need you. Aunt Sari wanted me to lead Landen to glory, but... I can't rule forever."

"I understand, Sean," Mieu replied. She gasped slightly, feeling her hands slipping into Sean's. To her surprise, Sean brought her hand to his lips, giving its back a gentle kiss.

"Mieu... I can't rule forever. And... I don't think I can do it without you."

Confused, Mieu raised an eyebrow. "Sean?" she asked.

"Look, Mieu, I guess I should be direct." He reached into one of his pockets, removing something with both his hands. When he reopened his hands, Mieu could see a familiar blue gem, cut into a square shape.

"Sean! This is the Royal Sapphire!" she exclaimed, a blush crossing her cheeks.

"It is. Mieu, I'm giving this to you because..." He paused a moment, then looked into her eyes. His gaze did not waver for a moment as he continued, "Mieu, may I have the honor of having you as my queen?"

"Oh, my God! Sean!" If Mieu's cybernetic eyes could portray absolute shock and delight, then Sean would have been able to see it. "Sean, yes! Absolutely!" she cried out, leaping from her chair and into Sean's lap. With a grunt, he leaned forward into Mieu, counterbalancing the chair so they wouldn't fall over. Once the chair was back on all four legs, his hand reached around Mieu's head, cupping it as he pulled her into a long kiss. Their arms wrapped around each other, pulling each other oh-so-closer.

Displays started flickering in Mieu's sight as their lips continued pushing against each other: PULSE 95+, BP 124/82, RESPIR 35+, CHEM [#MOON_DEW]LUNAR DEW 23 ppb. With nary a thought, she dismissed the displays- Mieu didn't want them ruining this moment.

Sean and Mieu continued their moonlit kiss for a few minutes before Sean finally pulled away from Mieu. They shared a longing glance at each other before kissing each other again. The prince and the cyborg kissed for a full hour, their arms and hands running up and down each others' bodies as their kiss prolonged. They mutually decided to end their liplock when their combined weight and motion caused the chair to topple over, sending them to the floor.

"Ow!" "Damn it!"

Anger and pain turned to concern as the two looked at each other, breathlessly asking "Are you all right?!"

"Mieu, when did you paint your nails red?" Sean asked, confused.

"Sean, when did the chair fall over?" Mieu replied, looking at Sean. "Oh, my... you're bleeding."

"Am I?" Reaching up to his forehead, Sean felt a small trickle starting to run down his forehead. "I'm out of Technical Energy, and Wren was carrying all the medicine. Damn it."

Smiling slyly, Mieu crawled up to Sean, concentrating blue energy around her hands. With a wink, she kissed Sean, transferring the energy through her body into his. Once the energy dissipated, Mieu pulled away, whispering, "Res. Feel better, Sean."

"Thanks, Mieu..." He rose to his feet, then offered his hand to Mieu, helping her off the ground. They shared an embrace and one last kiss before Mieu started towards the bedroom door. "Good night, Sean. May we have a long and happy life together, my beloved."

"Good night, Mieu. May the bards sing stories of our journies for millennia to come." She blew Sean one last kiss before departing.

"Good night..."

Sean sighed, then headed towards his bed, collapsing backwards onto it. Smiling for the first time in what felt like forever, he started to drift off into a dreamy sleep, visions of Mieu dancing in his heart and mind.

This lasted for a few moments before Mieu reopened the door and leaned into Sean's room. "Err, Sean?" she asked. "How did you know-"

"Well, I see that look on your face every time you look at me. I know what it means. You haven't used my title for the past thirty five minutes, and... Wren told me."

"What?! Ooh, that Wren..." Mieu grumbled. "I'll have to cross his Wat circuits next chance I get. Good night, Sean. Before you go to sleep, perhaps you should wash my lipstick off your face. Otherwise, the maids might get upset with you."

"I, uh... yeah. I should." Sean sweatdropped, then climbed out of the bed. Once he had cleaned his face, he gave Mieu one final glance. "Good night, Mieu, my love," he whispered.

"Good night, my beloved Sean," Mieu replied. She pressed two fingers to her lips, then blew one last kiss to the green-haired man before finally leaving his room.

As she returned to her own chambers, she saw Wren plugged into a power outlet, nearly finished with a recharge cycle. Nah, she thought as she undressed and climbed into her bed. I owe Wren one, she thought. Next time he tells my secrets, ooh, that Deban Device of his is going to turn his lasers pink.

As Mieu settled into her sleep, she smiled, grateful that Sean returned her love. She couldn't help but start dreaming of what she hoped would be new memories- memories of her dear Sean, their life together, and the family that they would have.

Historian's Note: Later that year, it was double celebration for the people of Landen Kingdom- the marriage and coronation of King Sean and Queen Mieu. Their reign was long, and with the full support of the people of Landen, the two began the process of opening the long-sealed passages between the seven domes of the Alisa III arcology. As time and generations wore on, their great-grandchild Core began expeditions to contact the Neo Palma arcology, opening contact to the ship in AW 2426. Even now, three hundred years after the legendary Battle of Lashute, the people of Landen Dome have nothing but the utmost pride and respect for the two monarchs. May the Great Light continue to bless the Royal Family of Landen!

~Hyuga deLyta, Grand Historian, Teckna City, Elysium Dome


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